7th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
That is probably the most difficult thing that Jesus asks of us isn’t? Loving our enemies. Doing good to those who hate us. Blessing those who curse us.
How do we do that? How do we do that especially when we live in a time when it seems like it’s only normal and accepted to harbor anger and hate for those who have hurt us?
Well, I can only tell you how I’ve done it in my own life.
As most of you know I came to Ticonderoga and Schroon Lake from Watertown. That was my second stint. I was actually there twice as priest. My first stint was the assistant priest at Holy Family Church.
While I was there I became friends with one of the parishioners there. His name was Eric Evans. I thought we actually had a wonderful friendship going until we had a major disagreement.
To make a long story short this disagreement between Eric and I was so bad that Eric told me that he didn’t want anything to do with me ever again.
You can imagine I was devastated and I spent the remainder of my time at that assignment sad and angry that I lost a good friend.
I also spent a great deal of energy trying to avoid him in parish and social situations to avoid awkward confrontations. That’s gets exhausting after a while.
Eventually, I was transferred to another assignment. Fast forward 13 years and one day out of the blue Bishop LaValley calls me to say that he’s transferring me to Watertown as pastor of St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s Churches.
I gladly accepted and thanked him for the new assignment. After I hung up the phone, however, I suddenly remembered Eric 13 years prior and our falling out. My mind was racing with a million thoughts all at once. How will I deal with this him if I run into him at the grocery store, at the mall, or at a religious event?
First, I prayed over it. Then, I decided that I had to let go of all the negative feelings that I had for him and forgive. After all, it’s been 13 years! There has been a lot of water under that bridge! I decided that if I saw him in public I would attempt to reach out and reconcile with him.
About a couple of months into my new assignment I did have an opportunity to confront my former friend. As a matter of fact it was at the mall. We ran into each other walking in opposite directions when we recognized each other. He looked at me and gave me a quick wave and walked on. I turned around and called his name and asked him if I could have just a few moments to say something.
He slowly walked back to me and said, “What do you want?”
I poured my heart out. I apologized for what was said all those years ago and I asked him if there was any possibility we can let go of all the bad feelings between us and be friends again.
He paused for what seemed like an eternity then looked at me in the eye and said, “I said to you then that we could never be friends again and I still feel like that today. Don’t ever talk to me again.”
I felt I was kicked in the gut all of over again. I was there for two more years after that incident and they were a great two years, but, my biggest regret that I wasn’t able to reconcile with Eric while I was there.
I was eventually transferred here and along with all my suitcases filled with my clothes and boxes of my belongings I also brought with me my disappointment and regret. Those feelings felt heavier than the clothes and the boxes of stuff.
What was I going to do? Once I again I prayed. I asked God how I could touch this person’s soul. And then it hit me. I knew that Eric’s father and mother passed away a few years ago, so, I decided to have a mass celebrated for his mom and dad.
Now you’re probably wondering, “How are you going to do that when Eric told you not to talk to him again? He’s going to be pretty ticked off when he sees your name in the church bulletin as the guy who offered the mass in honor of their parents!”
Great question. This is how I did it. In the note that I mailed to the church with the $10 offering requesting the mass I asked that the mass be announced in the bulletin for Chuck and Brenda Evans by the Evans family. Then I signed the note, “Thank you for your time, The Evans Family.”
My friend would see the mass announcement in the bulletin and all he would know is that someone from the family requested it!
The most powerful prayer we have as Catholics is the mass. Here we come as sinners and future saints to be fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are also united in a real and spiritual way to the saints in heaven as well as sinners and future saints around the world who gather around altars just like ours to celebrate the Eucharist.
Including our enemies and those who hate us.
So, in my mind my gesture of anonymously offering a mass for the deceased members of my enemy’s family is my way of obeying Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
My hope is that he will pray for the person who had the mass celebrated who just happens to be his enemy whether he knows it or not.
Hopefully, the grace of the sacrament will soften his heart! Hopefully, during the part of the mass when we pray the Lord’s Prayer together, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” he will eventually forgive me whom he is already connected by the holy sacrifice of the mass!
Folks, let us use this mass as an opportunity to “Love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us.”